Neptun Docking Solutions Fall 2018
Laptops have been getting slimmer and lighter over the last few years. While this is good news for our backs since we have to carry less weight, this increasingly means that laptops only come with very few ports. Most laptops have already dropped the network port and the industry is quickly shifting to offering Thunderbolt/USB-C ports only. If you need to connect a lot of peripheral devices like displays, mice and keyboards, or external storage, the best solution is usually a docking station. A docking station keeps you from having to plug in half a dozen cables into your laptop every time you bring your machine to your desk. Additionally, USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 allow you to connect all your devices over a single cable that can also charge your laptop at the same time.
Thunderbolt 3 Docks
Docking stations with Thunderbolt 3 connections are currently the most powerful docking solutions. The massive bandwidth of Thunderbolt 3 allows for the concurrent connection to multiple high-resolution displays and high-speed storage solutions. Older VGA displays, as well as regular USB devices and a network connection can also be attached to these docks. Both HP and Lenovo offer two versions of their Thunderbolt 3 docks: One version with a single cable to the laptop for less power-hungry devices, and a high-power version with a special dual-head cable for workstations.
For all Lenovo devices, except the P52 and the L380, the ThinkPad Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station is the right choice. The P52 gets its own ThinkPad Thunderbolt 3 Workstation Dock, which is not compatible with other ThinkPads.
For HP devices, we recommend the Thunderbolt Dock G2 120 W for all EliteBooks, except the 735 G5 and the 1050 G1. The ZBook Studio G5 and the EliteBook 1050 G1 require the more powerful Thunderbolt Dock G2 with Combo Cable, which is also compatible with all other EliteBooks with Thunderbolt 3.
USB-C docks use the same cable form factor as Thunderbolt 3 docks, but they utilize the USB protocol to transport data instead of the 4-8 times faster Thunderbolt 3 protocol. This means that fewer devices can be connected at the same time. However, a simple office configuration with a FullHD display, mouse and keyboard, network, and an external hard drive can still easily be run over a USB-C dock. In general, USB-C docks are more compact and more affordable than Thunderbolt 3 docks, so they can also work as a companion on the road.
For Lenovo devices, we recommend the ThinkPad USB-C Dock primarily for the L380, but all ThinkPads are compatible. However, the P52 will not charge with this dock.
For HP devices, you have the choice between the USB-C Dock G4, which is a regular dock with power pass-through, and the USB-C Mini Dock, which is intended as a compact travel adapter that cannot charge any device. The USB-C Dock G4 can charge all laptops except the EliteBook 1050 G1 and the ZBook Studio G5, and we recommend it for the ProBook x360 440 and the EliteBook 735 G5.
Traditional Side Docks
Side docks used to be the standard for docking solutions, but the flexibility and power of USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 have made them obsolete in many cases. However, they offer one key benefit: You can securely lock your laptop into a side dock, so you need only one security cable to secure both devices. In workplaces where security is an issue, this is a very useful feature. Regarding the functionality, side docks offer a similar array of ports and similar bandwidth to USB-C docks. Additionally, they are usually more affordable than either USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 Docks.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Ultra Docking Station CS18 (2017) is compatible with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th gen., T480s, and T480.
The HP UltraSlim Docking Station is compatible with the EliteBook 735 G5, 840 G5, and 850 G5.
Since side docks use proprietary ports and offer few benefits over more recent docking solutions, a Thunderbolt 3 or a USB-C dock is currently the best choice for docking. The offer more power and flexibility, and the single cable solution is very easy to plug in. Additionally, Thunderbolt and USB-C docks generally work across brands, so you won’t be locked in into a particular brand of laptop down the line. However, it is advisable to buy a docking station from the same manufacturer as your laptop, if you’re in the market for a new one, since certain special features only work if the dock and the laptop come from the same manufacturer.